The Institut d'Estudis Catalans
The Institut d'Estudis Catalans (IEC), the academy of sciences and humanities, founded in 1907, is the leading academic corporation in the lands of Catalan language and culture, and has been a fully-fledged member of the International Union of Academies since 1922.
The IEC is comprised of 186 appointed or emeritus members from all over the linguistic territory, and 70 corresponding members that represent the relationships of our institution with the international scientific community, and it has 28 subsidiary societies in all areas of knowledge, with some 10,000 associates all over the territory.
Moreover, it has 111 reporting local study centres which endorse the deep-rooted commitment of the research community to all areas of our cultural reality.
The Catalan language and cultural community, the subject of national rights
Throughout history, the Catalan language community has played a significant role in the development of European civilisation, in all regards, from the very origins of Romance peoples. Nowadays, by virtue of its dimensions — millions of Catalan speakers — and dynamics, it seeks equal footing with other world languages and cultures.
Its characteristics fulfil the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, which guarantees equal rights and self-determination of peoples (article 1.2), and also, in the case of territories that have not achieved full sovereignty, the recognition of their inhabitants' interests, respect for their culture and the progressive development of self-government as befits their political aspirations (chapter XI). Articles 1 of the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) establish that all peoples have the right to self-determination, by virtue of which they can decide freely on their political status and aspire freely to their economic, social and cultural development.
The Catalan language and cultural community patently constitutes a nation that deserves equal recognition in the framework of the respective states of its immediate reality, as well as in the bosom of the European Union and the United Nations. Each one of the territories into which this nation is currently fragmented have the legitimate and vested right to decide which state they will belong, be it to the current one or else to aspire to building a different and specific state. No legitimate democratic action can contradict and far less criminalise this right of the Catalan citizens. Nobody, in a democratic political framework, can decide what other peoples' nations should do.
While our case is not that of a minority nation, but rather a minoritized nation, we wish to draw everybody's attention to the insufficiency of the protection for minorities in the international political system, which is incapable of preventing the serious contradiction whereby state majorities can decide the fate of the minorities, dispossessing them of their right to decide upon their own resources and the future of their respective languages, cultures and territories, thus annulling the social predominance that any language and culture deserves to have in its own setting. The efficacy of documents such as the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (1995), the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (1992) or Recommendation 1735 of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly on the concept of nation, of January 26, 2006, whose point 12 states that a more tolerant approach must be taken to the issue of relations between the State and national minorities, culminating in genuine acceptance of the right of all individuals to belong to the nation which they feel they belong to, whether in terms of citizenship or in terms of language, culture and traditions.
Why this declaration now
Current circumstances are exceptional, with the convergence of the trends inherent in the process of globalisation and the pressures of state majorities — and more particularly the Kingdom of Spain — towards a linguistic and cultural homogenisation totally contrary to the principles of sustainable cultural diversity which calls for the attention of languages and cultures from all over the world, principles which are advocated by international treaties and the declarations of the European Union and the United Nations.
The political regression of the Spanish autonomous State evinces trends which are increasingly more adverse to equality, both in the political consideration of nationalities and respect for linguistic and cultural plurality and in the system of funding or state investments. Numerous media elements are fostering anti-Catalan feeling, and we have only recently witnessed how a Constitutional Court annulled precepts of a Statute of Autonomy which was not only approved by the Parliament of Catalonia and the Parliament of Spain, but moreover secured the favourable plebiscite of the people of Catalonia.
This situation jeopardises our collective future and the effort to secure the cohesion of our entire society, and more particularly the educational system, with a view to integrating, in Catalan and Spanish, millions of people hailing from other lands, of diverse languages and cultures. More than 40% of foreigners in Spain live in the Catalan-speaking area.
Our call is far removed from any party political option, which is not at all the mandate of an institution such as ours. It is born of the realisation that it constitutes a legitimate and responsible intervention in things public, and not to defend any excluding particularism, but rather, and quite the contrary, to assert the fairest, most equitable and democratic universal principles that uphold coexistence in diversity, like the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights proclaimed in Barcelona in 1996.
We wish to contribute to an international context that is favourable for all the languages and cultures of the world, in the knowledge that our community is an indicator of the credibility of the policies that foster respect for diversity.
Who we address
We are addressing, first and foremost, our people, for them to realise, with the most absolute certainty, that they are protected by the universal principles of justice and that they should not hesitate to claim their rights to self-determination and self-government with all the vigour and steadfastness called for within the civic-minded framework of democracy.
We are addressing our political representatives and our institutions of self-government, for them to assume and uphold these rights and to strive to secure equal status, inside or outside the current state framework and in the context of the international community.
We are addressing the European Union and the United Nations for them to actively commit to the principles that they proclaim regarding equal respect for linguistic, cultural and national diversity, and not only for the millions of Europeans who regard themselves as Catalan in language, culture and nation.
And we are addressing anyone who would build a fair and sustainable European and world society, respectful of linguistic, cultural and national diversity, so that they may understand that Catalan society is but one example in a process that affects all humankind.
February 3, 2011